Cancer Talk Week – why should we talk about cancer?

It's Cancer Talk Week and, in our latest blog, our editor Imogen talks about her experience as a Macmillan support line volunteer, highlights the benefits of talking about cancer and looks at some of the different ways people can start talking...

One evening each week, I stop being an editor and start acting as a frontline volunteer. I began taking calls on the Macmillan support line (MSL) over a year ago and it’s been a great experience in many ways. Most importantly, it’s helped me understand how hard it can be to talk about cancer.

Even on the support line, callers are often hesitant to begin that conversation – and many people may not call at all. That’s why we’re using Cancer Talk Week to open up about the loneliness that can follow a cancer diagnosis and explore why it’s so hard to talk honestly about it.

Why is it hard to talk about cancer?

Many of us don’t like talking about our problems because we don’t want to seem needy or may want to protect other people from being upset. We may think that our problems aren’t important enough to bother people with. But in reality many people will want to help.

Why should we try to talk about cancer?

Talking can have many benefits. Whether you have cancer or you’re a friend or relative of someone with cancer, putting your fears or concerns into words can help you make sense of difficult situations. Talking about cancer may help you:

  • feel more in control
  • feel less anxious
  • make important decisions
  • realise that your feelings are normal
  • stop your fears growing bigger
  • feel valued and supported.

It can also bring you closer together at a difficult time. Our information can help you start those conversations.

Picture and quote from Diane 'Talking about my cancer and the experience has been really important for me. The process of talking about my story with other people has made a difference.'

If you have cancer

Our free booklet Talking about cancer has tips and advice about starting conversations and sharing your feelings with family, friends and health professionals.

If you’d feel more comfortable talking to someone outside of your family or group of friends, give one of our cancer support specialists a call on 0808 808 00 00. Or, you could use our Online Community to talk about your thoughts and feelings with people who know what you’re going through.

Some people don’t want to share their feelings about cancer or its treatment. Be open with your friends and family when it’s hard to talk. Sometimes you may want to enjoy not talking about the cancer. Don’t be afraid to tell people when you would prefer to talk about other things.

If you’re a friend or relative

Just being there for someone with cancer is often the most important thing. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what to say – listening is just as useful. We have more information about how talking and listening can help your loved one.

Quote from Kit 'If you are not sure what to say, I love a smile or a hug - no words needed.'

Our free booklet Lost for words – how to talk to someone with cancer can help you better understand how your friend or relative may be feeling. It also includes a practical checklist of ways you can help.

Remember, our support line and Online Community are there for you too. Being close to someone who has cancer can feel just as isolating. You may feel guilty for being upset or try to hide how you feel to stay strong for your loved one. But your feelings are valid and we want to offer you the same support.

Join the conversation

To find out what people are saying about Cancer Talk Week, search for #GreenNotBlue on Twitter. Or you can find and share tips about talking over at The Source.

To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

We're with you every step of the way

The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

Comments? Feel free to add them below (you need to be logged in).

Keep in touch Follow Macmillan’s cancer information team on Twitter @mac_cancerinfo

  • <p>Cancer absolutely should be talked about.





    <strong>Anyone reading this right now that is fighting cancer: watch Wh</strong><strong>at the Health and please try out a vegan lifestyle. You never know, it may save your life! </strong>




  • <p>Hi my mum 68 was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, tumour at the head but close to portal vein therefore borderline resectable.  Thankfully it hasn&#39;t spread and she had no weight loss or any other side effects only tummy pain.  She started Folfirinox 08/01 and completed her 4th cycle today.  She is tolerating it very well Only side effect is tiredness.  She receives the neulasta injection 24 hrs after the Pump comes off but has been getting lower back pain ever since the first cycle.  And now since cycle 3 she&#39;s noticing some ankle swelling too, tumour markers have risen slightly too (300) after starting the chemo and she&#39;s having her 1st scan in 2 weeks,  very anxious time really hoping the chemo is working just wanted to share my storey X 


  • <p>  Hi  I&#39;m Ash and im 35years old. I have been diagnosed with Invasive Ductal breast cancer. I&#39;ve had four chemo sessions and still have four more to get thru. I then  have my operation after that I have radiotherapy. After the radiotherapy I still have to take inections for a year (my cancer is HER2 Positive). I find it very difficult going through this whole process. I feel so weak. The chemo is very tough. I can&#39;t wait till it&#39; all over. 


  • <p>They believe the primary is the kidney they want one more MDT meeting next Tuesday then they will have me in week Thursday for either camera down or through belly, so another week to wait. Biggest thing, they didn’t say ‘there’s nothing we can do for you’ phew!!


  • <p>The more we talk about our cancers the better. If you had a broken leg, a migraine, a dodgy knee, a dickie heart or failing eyesight you would feel everybody would understand. The more you talk about your cancer the more people will get to understand. Of course cancer can be terminal but in the end we will all have to go sometime.